A rather amusing set of concerns often befall the budding entrepreneur as they imagine fame, fortune, and scaling.

I’ve gotta be careful — I don’t want too many customers…

I heard that if you incorporate in Delaware or Florida…

Would you mind signing an NDA?

While we’re busy making sure our certain success doesn’t overtake our lives and drown us in abundance, we sometimes forget to do the hard things. Hard things like asserting rather than falling in line, executing rather than hiding, and persisting rather than pivoting.

There’s precisely nothing about running a company that comes natural or easy to people — don’t believe the lies. But it’s certainly manageable, and if it’s worth doing, it’s worth maintaining.

In the early days of Abernathy, I considered a long list of mostly irrelevant topics to ensure the best outcome for my budding media company. As time passes, I develop a much keener sense of what’s important.

Anxious preoccupations are wonderfully seductive, but healthy cashflow is a powerful tool to have if you’re serious about thriving.

The transgender bathroom debate provides a useful illustration of how modern society collides with tradition and culture. Same-sex marriage wasn’t legal across the nation before June 26th of 2015. African Americans couldn’t exercise their 15th amendment right to vote before 1965 — scarcely more than five decades ago.

We’re on the front lines of deciding what’s acceptable in our work, our nation, our states, and even much closer to home. We influence culture by the thoughts that we entertain, by the generosity we show, and by the kind of lives we choose to live.

Cynically, yes, much of our society is directed by institutions and bureaucrats that seem hopelessly unfit for the task. But we can still strive to be more excellent versions of ourselves if we see fit. We need good people passing laws and disrupting the status quo, no doubt, but we also need to be kind to ourselves.

…but it’s entirely possible that you’re dehydrated. Perhaps it’s been a while since you’ve worked up a sweat and spent some time in quiet reflection.

Who knows how you might feel after you spend some time on the essentials.

Switch it up

03/04/2016

Until I moved back to New York last year, the math worked out to me changing cities roughly every six months. The reason for my frequent moves wasn’t so much about my actual location, but rather the mindset brought on my frequent change.

Put another way, I moved around to ensure that I never remained stagnant in my personal growth and evolution. But changing cities isn’t the only way to accomplish this, and certainly not the most convenient.

Yesterday, I rearranged my room. The energy is different, I love the change, and I keep thinking of improvements to further amplify this change. This flow of inspiration feels familiar, and it’s a nice reminder that the things we desire are often right there with us.

Our job, therefore, is less about striving to reach or become or achieve or accomplish…and more about remembering and rediscovering and revealing who and what and where we already are.

Early investments

03/02/2016

One of the turning points in my transition into adulthood was my involvement with the INROADS organization. INROADS is a non-profit that provides Fortune 500 internships for minority youth, and I grew into a capable leader as a result of the experience and professional development I received.

The older I get, the more I think back on those years and how I’m still able to draw from the experiences. This has been on my mind lately because of the piece I wrote about my friend Ivo and his work with the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

I’m grateful that so many people invested their time and energy, and that so many folks cared enough to put organizations and opportunities in place to lift up my generation. And so this is a thank you, of sorts, to the people who support our next generation of leaders.

They’re ready, and they need us.

In the moment

03/01/2016

I walk to the train every morning along a similar route. Sometimes I’ll switch it up—mostly out of some tinfoil hat paranoia I have about some nefarious character learning my routine and luring me into the back of a sketchy van with a promise of ice cream—and sometimes I won’t.

Separate from the variety I intentionally inject, I’ll also vary my route based on traffic. If I can avoid coming to a complete stop while still walking towards my destination, I will. In these moments, I’ll make a decision when I come to the intersection.

If I apply this same ad-hoc approach to scheduling my day, however, there will be significant consequences. I remember being of the age where many of my friends had jobs where the hours and shifts would change every week. Until the next week’s schedule was made, it was hard for them to make plans for the hours that could be taken up by a shift.

If I open my inbox every morning and allow that to dictate the flow of my day rather than planning that our ahead of time, it’s unlikely that I will accomplish much of consequence in the aggregate. Every decision made on the fly draws from the my finite well of attention.

When your work involves other people, as it almost certainly does, it’s downright irresponsible not to be intentional about the flow of your day. Some things are fine to schedule on the fly, and others are decidedly not. Protect your time.

Stunting

02/29/2016

As with any urban millennial, I fully appreciate the desire to prove detractors wrong—sometimes you’ve just gotta dab on ’em.

But using the bulk of your creative energy to invent ways of proving your father-in-law wrong (or trying to impress him) is a gross misappropriation of your brilliance.

What about the people you’re trying to serve and change? Are they getting your creative leftovers?

I think we can do better than that. Trust the process, stay focused, and dab when necessary.

Normalizing stupid

02/28/2016

“This might be a silly question, but…”

“That’s not a silly question at all”

A profoundly compassionate and subtle thing we can do for each other in conversations is to gently puncture notions of shame and fear that arise.

An example we often see is the “This might be a silly question, but…” preface to a question. It’s so commonplace that we rarely acknowledge it, but noticing it might be worth your time.

When we create a space for the underlying fears that direct the flow of our emotions to be seen for what they are—psychological suffering that can be overcome—we free ourselves to show up more fully and honestly in the moments when we’re fearful.

A quick “That’s not a silly question at all” before responding might be all that’s needed.

***

When I was a bright-eyed and clueless freshman at Florida State University, I used to correct friends of mine when they made mistakes around me. Typographical error? Not on my watch. Factual error, however trivial? I’m on the job—thank me later!

For me, the motivation to correct them was obvious: how could someone not want to know when they’re wrong about something? I wished more people pointed out my mistakes when I made them. I asked them to!

Sadly, this is not actually how humans work.

I learned that my habit of correcting people made them extremely uncomfortable. I was blind to the effects of my “goodwill” until some generous souls pointed out how the corrections made them feel. I hadn’t for a moment considered the possibility that there weren’t people who didn’t want to aggressively participate in their own personal development.

I was so naive.

What I was actually exhibiting was an act of breathtaking self-absorption. Not only did I assume that everyone thought about things like me, I proceeded with the solutions without their approval or consent. I did not, as it turns out, have all the answers.

***

Over time (and many re-readings of good books), I’ve learned how to better communicate with and relate to humans. I’ve noticed the ways in which fear and shame are baked into my own mental models and patterns of thought. I’ve observed how varying degrees of anxiety is crippling generations of leaders and thinkers and world-changers.

It’s sobering, and puts many of our perceived struggles in perspective: the suffering most people reading this post experience is psychological.

This realization—coming alive to me in ways that it never did before—helps me better understand a host of other things more clearly. Perhaps most closest to home, it helps me understand why so much of Seth’s writing is about fear and the lizard brain and the emotional component of business.

This is curious because Seth is one of the most frighteningly adept business minds I’ve ever encountered. I’m not into hero worship, but the man is a monster. And this mental dexterity is wrapped in an immense and unwavering kindness and generosity.

And contrasting this with my juvenile intentions as a 22 year-old undergrad crystallizes nearly a decade of learning that will continue to pay dividends as I continue to evolve.

Here’s to stupid questions.

Grand Opening

02/27/2016

There’s a Chinese restaurant near my apartment that recently printed new menus. I noticed this because the menus were a different color than the others I’ve seen in the past.

[Whether this reflects a great memory on my part or an addiction to MSG is beyond the scope of this post.]

But what stuck out to me was the “Grand Opening” announcement on the new menus—this was not a new restaurant. Sure enough, I later found an old menu at home I grabbed when I moved here about a year ago. “Grand Opening” it read as well.

I won’t be filing a lawsuit against the restaurant for its misleading menu, but this is as good a time as any to think about the things we do and say that have become meaningless with overuse.

A trend I’ve noticed in people who exhibit a high level of mastery in a given domain is the ability to distill knowledge into digestible chunks for others. This is often accomplished though the use of relevant metaphors.

To be effective at this, a deep understanding is required — not only of an area of expertise like software engineering or theoretical physics — but also of the complexity inherent in everyday things.

If you can help me understand your point of view through a metaphor relevant to my life experience, it’s possible that I’ll immediately understand you. If you articulate the point of view in a way that’s relevant and accessible to the people you’re trying to reach, it’s possible that you will win.